Neem compound may shrink prostate tumors

(Credit: Dinesh Valke via Wikimedia Commons)

A compound derived from the leaves of the neem plant could significantly suppress the development of prostate cancer, new research suggests.

Prostate cancer is one of the most commonly diagnosed cancers in the world, but current therapies are only marginally effective.

The study found that oral administration of nimbolide, which has not yet been tested in humans, could suppress cell invasion and migration of prostate cancer cells without any significant adverse effects. Over a period of 12 weeks, tumor size was reduced by up to 70 percent and its metastasis, or spread, by up to 50 percent.

The nimbolide works by targeting glutathione reductase, an enzyme responsible for maintaining the antioxidant system that regulates the STAT3 gene in the body. This then inhibits STAT3 activation, which has been reported to contribute to prostate tumor growth and metastasis.

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“In this research, we have demonstrated that nimbolide can inhibit tumor cell viability—a cellular process that directly affects the ability of a cell to proliferate, grow, divide, or repair damaged cell components—and induce programmed cell death in prostate cancer cells,” says study leader Gautam Sethi, an associate professor in the pharmacology department at NUS Medicine.

Although the anticancer effects of nimbolide have been observed in breast, colon, and oral cancer studies, this is the first time its potential effects on prostate cancer initiation and progression have been shown.

Originally native to India and the Indian sub-continent, the neem plant—part of the mahogany tree family—is commonly found in Singapore. It has been used in traditional Asian medicine for centuries and can also be found in soaps, toothpaste, skincare products, and dietary supplements.

The team plans to conduct further studies into the side effects of nimbolide, other potential molecular targets, as well as the efficacy of nimbolide when combined with other drugs for prostate cancer therapy.

Additional coauthors contributed from the Cancer Science Institute of Singapore at the National University of Singapore, the National Cancer Centre Singapore, and Kyung Hee University in Korea. The findings were published in Antioxidants & Redox Signaling.

Source: National University of Singapore